A domestic violence victim is asking the city of Portland to stop doing business with a concert promoter who assaulted her.

Erica Cole criticized officials in Bangor and Portland in a blog post Monday for recent decisions to continue doing business with Alex Gray and his Waterfront Concerts despite knowing about the criminal case. Gray pleaded guilty last fall to misdemeanor domestic violence assault but denied hitting Cole, his former girlfriend, at his Portland condo last March.

Cole’s post is written as an open letter to Portland’s city manager from “a former citizen” who had to move out because of the assault.

“By continuing to do business with Alex Gray and his companies, you are sending a message that domestic violence is acceptable in Portland,” Cole wrote. “You are also setting an example for young men and women that – in the city of Portland – money trumps morality.”

Cole’s criticism comes after the Portland council unanimously approved a deal in February allowing Waterfront Concerts to book shows at the city-owned Maine State Pier, even though two residents and two councilors raised concerns at the time about Gray’s domestic violence plea. His company also books concerts at the Merrill Auditorium.

Cole’s blog post had been viewed nearly 37,000 times by the end of Monday.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said in an interview Monday afternoon that the City Council will revisit its agreement with Waterfront Concerts on April 9.

“Her message was very powerful,” Strimling said. “I feel like she’s really made me recognize I needed to do more homework before that vote (in February).”

Strimling and Portland City Manager Jon Jennings said they plan to meet separately with Cole on Tuesday. Jennings said Monday that he is sympathetic and takes domestic violence seriously because his mother was abused when he was 9-years-old.

Bangor officials said they would not reconsider, and the city manager said there is no provision in the city’s contract that would allow them to exit based on a misdemeanor conviction.

Cole, who was crowned Miss Maine in 2005, had been in a relationship with Gray for about five years. That relationship ended in March 2017, after Gray assaulted her in his Portland condo in the early morning hours.

Cole told police that she and Gray argued intermittently during a night out with friends and, after returning to Gray’s Portland condominium, he demanded to see her cellphone. Feeling threatened, she said she decided to leave and Gray demanded her keys to the condo when she said she was going to stay elsewhere that night.

According to the police report, Cole said Gray then kicked her legs out from under her while the two struggled for her purse and he put a hand on her throat, using his other hand to grab the keys, and then banged her head against the floor.

Although Gray pleaded guilty last fall, he will be able to withdraw his guilty plea if he abides by 22-court-ordered conditions, which include not contacting Cole.

Cole described her experience in court. “I will never forget the feeling of his hand grabbing the side of my head and slamming it into the floor,” she said in comments aired by News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ), which aired in a one-on-one interview with her in November.

After his October court appearance, Gray denied the specifics of the allegations, saying that if he had actually banged Cole’s head against the floor, “I’d be standing here on a murder charge.”

Gray declined to respond personally to the blog post on Monday, but provided a joint statement from lawyers Ashleigh and John Merchant, who said they are close friends and vouched for Gray’s character.

“While it is unfortunate that a response is needed, I feel compelled to reply on Alex Gray’s behalf since, due to conditions imposed by the court, he has strict limitations on his ability to respond and dispel these false allegations,” the Merchants’ email said. Despite the accusations, the Merchants wrote that they fully trust Gray to spend time with their young daughters and that “he is a strong role model for them of how men should treat women.”

Jennings said he received an email from Cole alerting him to the blog. He shared it with councilors, who asked to revisit the city’s business relationship with Waterfront Concerts. He plans to meet with Cole on Tuesday.

Jennings said staff is still negotiating the final agreement for the Maine State Pier. Last year, the pier concerts generated $54,000 in net revenue for the city. Waterfront Concerts also has a hold on 30 dates at the city’s Merrill Auditorium, he said.

Jennings wouldn’t say whether he supports a business relationship with Gray, but suggested that bringing the contract forward was his responsibility as city manager.

“I’m incredibly sympathetic to her and all that she’s gone through due to my own personal experience as a child with my mother having experienced domestic violence when I was 9-years-old,” Jennings said. “In my position, this is one of the difficult things you have to do.”

He added anyone guilty of domestic violence is “beneath contempt” for such “reprehensible” behavior.

Cole did not want to be interviewed Monday, but describes in her post the lasting effects of that night, including dental work stemming from the assault and ongoing financial hardship of medical bills. Cole said she was homeless for weeks after the incident and spent seven months sleeping on couches, and is now trying to build a new life in Boston.

“The physical injuries have healed, but the emotional trauma will long be something I need to overcome,” Cole said. “I never imagined that one day something like a slamming door could cause me to collapse to the floor in a panic attack – terrified – hardly able to breathe through my sobbing. My ego doesn’t want me to admit these things, but it’s important for you to hear them.”

In her blog post, Cole said that 13,437 people sought services from the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence last year. And Maine ranked ninth in the country in the rate of women killed by men, she said.

Bangor, meanwhile, is not reconsidering its business relationship with Gray.

The city inked a 10-year contract with Gray months after he was arrested and about a month before he pleaded guilty. Gray has since unveiled an ambitious proposal to build a permanent outdoor concert venue on the Bangor waterfront.

Bangor City Manager Cathy Conlow said there is no provision that would allow the city to terminate the contract due to a misdemeanor conviction.

“Applying a single standard to one individual seems to be patently unfair if we’re not going to apply it to everybody,” she said. “I’m in no way trying to minimize the domestic violence aspect of that.”

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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